CORPORATIONS: What a Way to Run a Railroad

Do yuh hear that whistle down the line? I figure that it's engine number forty-nine. She's the only one that'll sound that way On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe...

Johnny Mercer wrote and Judy Garland belted out those lyrics in 1946. Now, many of the songs written about railroads are nostalgic goodbyes, but the whistles are still blowing on the Santa Fe. The railroad, which operates 13,000 miles of track from Chicago through the Southwest to California, is big, modern and—a rarity these days—profitable.

Not excessively profitable, to be sure. As a little old prospector is surprised to learn on...

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